University Press Roundup: Empty Streets, Data Colonialism and Celebrating Plastic Free July

Check out this collection of 8 of the most interesting university press blog posts for this week. We aim to keep you informed, engaged, and part of the ongoing scholarly conversations.

1. There’s no vaccine for the sea level rising

Amidst the global efforts to remedy and stall the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Professor William Rouse directs our attention to the pressing issue of climate change, giving us an ultimatum. Without addressing climate change, “In the end, we are drowned, starved and/or diseased.” How can we fix our failures today before it’s too late? (Oxford University Press).

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2. Can We Fill Our Empty Streets?: Brian Ladd on the Role of Streets in City Life

These past months, the world was set in pause as people scrambled indoors to practice safe social distancing protocol. For the first time, once-bustling metropolitan cities like New York City sported bare streets, free of taxis, cyclists and pedestrians. Brian Ladd considers our current state of lockdown, positioning the state of city streets in the history and future of cities (University of Chicago Press).

3. 50 Years of Theater: A Retrospective

The journal, Theater, celebrates its 50th anniversary and an enduring tradition of speculation on change in altered society. Its special anniversary issue takes a historic and futuristic outlook, featuring reflections from Tom Sellar, the current editor, and Gordon Rogoff, a founding editor (Duke University Press).

photo-1550645612-83f5d594b6714. The Nuances of Data Colonialism

Nick Couldry and Ulises A. Mejias continue the conversation on data colonialism. Given that we spend most of our personal lives and work online, it is imperative, more than ever, to be aware of the symbolic violence that data colonialism categorises and orders everyday life (Stanford University Press).

5. Implications of the Coronavirus for Children

Dr Edward Bell answers pertinent questions on what every parent, grandparent and teacher needs to know about the implications of the coronavirus for children, from symptoms to over-the-counter medication (Johns Hopkins University Press).

photo-1572213426852-0e4ed8f41ff66. 7 Easy Steps to Reducing Plastic Waste

The Plastic Free July challenge is happening right now, across 177 countries, led by people committed to reduce single-use plastic consumption and strive for a better future. To help you get started, Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and Joanna Atherfold Finn have shared 7 easy steps you can follow to reduce plastic waste in your daily life (Columbia University Press)

7. The limits of knowledge in a data-driven society

Advances in technology and data management sound good…right? Not necessarily. Professor Sunha Hong declares, “All too often, data generates speculation as much as it does information.” (New York University Press).

photo-1492538368677-f6e0afe31dcc8. An Excerpt from Black Racialization and Resistance at an Elite University

The presence and experiences of Black people at elite universities have been largely underrepresented and erased from institutional histories. Read an excerpt from rosalind hampton’s book as she reflects upon differences in class, gender, and national identifications among Black scholars (University of Toronto Press).

COVID-19, China and the New Cold War: Where to From Here?

The guest author of this post is Professor Giles Chance. He is the author of “China and the Credit Crisis: The Emergence of a New World Order” published in 2010.

On January 13, I arrived in Beijing with my wife to stay with my father-in-law. He’s 94, single since his wife died, and still working, part-time, as a professor at the People’s University.  As soon as we arrived, we learned from Chinese social media that there was a virus in Beijing which had infected a number of people in Wuhan. We learned it was transmittable from person to person, and also that some medical professionals in Wuhan who had raised the alarm at the end of December had been warned by Chinese officials to keep quiet.

On the TV, the first virus news arrived on January 20, when we saw news pictures of thousands of travellers leaving Wuhan railway station, while the announcer spoke of a virus threat in the city. But it was only on January 23 that the virus replaced President Xi as the leading news item, with the report of a lockdown in Wuhan.

Our hunch that the lockdown would go national after Chinese New Year turned out correct. When we went out for food shopping on January 26, we found several black-uniformed Chinese policemen at the university gate. On January 29, as Western airlines cancelled scheduled flights to China from Europe, we realized it was time to leave. We managed to get seats on an Air China flight to Munich, leaving on February 1, at 2:20 am on a full flight.

photo-1586449480555-af85fd6ae850Weeks later, as we heard news of the extent and spread of the epidemic in China, we realized we had been lucky to get out when we did. It was obvious to us when we were still in Beijing that there had been some kind of delay in acting on the virus outbreak in China. After all, we were learning from social media about the epidemic outbreak in mid-January, soon after we arrived. The national lockdown imposed on the day after Chinese New Year seemed too much of a coincidence to be anything except planned, maybe weeks earlier.

We knew that several million people had left Wuhan to go home or travel overseas in the weeks prior to Chinese New Year. This seemed an efficient way of making sure that any infectious disease in Wuhan would be transmitted throughout China, and beyond. Surely the Chinese authorities must have realized the importance of preventing this exodus? Or was their fear of interrupting Chinese New Year so great as to risk allowing the spread of a local infection?

Today, we have two competing narratives of China’s response to the epidemic. One commends China’s actions in taking effective action to limit and contain the virus outbreak by putting a rigorous “cordon sanitaire” around Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak, and taking measures to restrict movement and curb the spread of the epidemic in the rest of China. This version is supported by an official report at the end of February from the World Health Organisation.  The following is an extract from the WHO report: “China’s bold approach to contain the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has changed the course of a rapidly escalating and deadly epidemic. In the face of a previously unknown virus, China has rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history. China’s uncompromising and rigorous use of non-pharmaceutical measures to contain transmission of the COVID-19 virus in multiple settings provides vital lessons for the global response”.

The other narrative, which our own experience supports, is based on investigative journalism by Western media in China, and is supplemented by the investigations of Western government agencies. This version maintains that there was a period of several weeks during which Chinese authorities in Wuhan and in Beijing strongly suspected (or knew) that the virus was like the SARS virus of 2003 in being highly dangerous to humans and capable of human-to-human transmission. Yet effective containment action was delayed for a critical multi-week period, during which infection spread from the outbreak area in Wuhan to the rest of China and to many countries beyond China, ultimately to the whole world.

photo-1582107626018-42c0558ac409This second version of events is supported by a local witness who lived through the 60-day lockdown in Wuhan. Wang Fang started to write her daily diary, called “Voice of Wuhan”, at the beginning of the lockdown. She published her thoughts and observations each night on Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter), mixing mundane observations about vegetable prices with raw descriptions of death and mourning, accompanied by scathing criticisms of the initial response to the crisis. Although her notes were removed by the Chinese censor within hours, by then they had already reached an audience of four million. The “Voice of Wuhan” captured the anger of the people inside Wuhan, imprisoned inside their apartments, railing at the incompetence and mendacity of the Chinese authorities, and seeking in vain the truth about what had really happened. The essence of the “Voice of Wuhan” was accountability. This has struck a lasting note within China.

In her final post on March 24, Wang Fang called on her fellow citizens to “have a responsibility and a duty to seek justice” for those who had died as a result of the wrong actions taken by the officials in charge. She also “thanked” the many people inside China – she called them “ultra-leftists” – who had attacked her for writing her reports on social media, because they made her famous in China and increased her readership.

It’s hard to see, though, how the Chinese government could tell the world the whole truth. If the Chinese government made a full breast of the origin and early handling of the epidemic in China, the Chinese people would think they were giving way in the face of Western pressure. The Chinese Communist Party has learned in recent years to base its message and popularity on the idea of Chinese national resurgence, and this has met an enthusiastic response.

Until a couple of months ago, many people around the world, deeply impressed by China’s great achievements since 1980, and observing the large economic benefits flowing from China’s emergence, were ready to accept China as another major player on the world stage, alongside the United States.  But the louder the Chinese government’s denials of epidemic mishandling, and the more China compares favourably its own effective WHO-approved COVID-19 response with the ham-fisted epidemic responses in many Western countries, the angrier Western observers become.

The virus has fundamentally changed the West’s view of the Chinese. Tolerance, and a willingness to investigate a different culture and worldview, have been replaced by mistrust and a desire to decouple.  A new cold war, between China and the West, has become the most important consequence of COVID-19.photo-1592438224739-e5fa23538578

But against the calls to decouple from China stand the intricate and ever-deeper economic and business links between China and the rest of the world. From American soybean and hog farmers to Australian and Brazilian iron ore producers, from French winemakers and cosmetics companies to German car manufacturers and from Zambian and Chilean copper mines to supermarkets selling Chinese-made products to Western consumers , the list of economic interests which depend on China is very long. China’s global emergence since 2000 has changed our world fundamentally, bringing lower prices to Western consumers and creating widespread economic prosperity.

The West has to choose between limiting the growth of China’s influence and power, on the one hand, and continuing to enjoy the large economic benefits of co-operation with China, on the other.  To try to do both will only leave the way open to China to continue to drive through the constraints which the West tries to impose on it.

But if the West wants a China that fits in better to the world the West wants, there is a cost to be paid. If the West doesn’t want to pay the cost, it will have to accept China as it is.

My guess is that, after all has been said and done, the West will find a way to rub along with the China that exists, warts and all.

And there’s another thing. Maybe the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Communist system made the West hubristic and overconfident. Remember Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History and the End of the Last Man” (1992), which suggested that liberal democracy was the last system left?

Perhaps competition from China will be the wake-up call which forces the West to revive and strengthen its values and beliefs, in the face of a different threat.

Professor Giles Chance is on the faculty of the Tuck Business School at Dartmouth College, USA. His book “China and the Credit Crisis: The Emergence of a New World Order” was published by John Wiley in 2010. 

He can be reached at: gileschance@gmail.com

Talk of the Town: 8 Things that Happened in the Publishing Industry in June 2020

In June 2020, the tremors of the global Black Matter Protests protests against police brutality have penetrated industries that reinforce systemic racism, with publishing being one of them.

That’s why Anthem Press has curated 5 note-worthy articles that contribute to a glimpse of the current state and future trajectory of the publishing industry. Whether data, news or commentary, we aim to keep you informed.

1. Publishers Sue Internet Archive Over Scanning of Books

In March 2020, the Internet Archive established a “National Emergency Library” to provide free digital content while schools, libraries and regular research activities were put on pause. In June 2020, publishers sued the digital library for copyright infringement, a continuation of the battle between the traditional publishing community and free-to-access internet community.

Full story here

photo-1588196749597-9ff075ee6b5b2. Richard Charkin: Ten Publishing Things That Will Never Be The Same

President of the International Publishers Association Richard Charkin lists the industry-altering effects of the pandemic on the publishing world including the move away from print review copies, the inevitable push to digital learning, the new ‘work from home’ culture, and no more publishing parties!

Full story here

3. Authors Push for Transparency with #PublishingPaidMe

On Twitter, the trending hashtag #PublishingPaidMe exposed the disparity in book advances between white and black authors as hundreds of authors publicly shared their advances in order to hold publishing houses accountable for the imbalance in pay.

Full story here

4. University of California, Springer Nature Sign Groundbreaking Open Access Deal

The University of California signed the largest open access agreement in North America to date. The deal will allow for the open access publication of UC research in roughly 2,700 Springer Nature journals, and will give UC students, faculty, and researchers access to roughly 1,000 more Springer Nature journals than UC previously subscribed to.

Full story here

photo-1561851561-04ee3d3244235. Putting a Value on Author Events at the Library

Libraries are excellent book marketers for local and midlist authors, designing events that cater directly to their communities. But how can a library measure the actual value of its platform, and then communicate that value so publishers can understand and compare it to their traditional marketing channels?

Full story here

6. The industry is ‘hostile environment on multiple levels’, says Singh

Jhalak Prize co-founder Sunny Singh calls out the publishing industry’s treatment of writers of colour, from the way they are received to the way they are reviewed. Singh points out that the problem must be addressed structurally, from hiring leadership to academics to widen the breadth of teaching writers of colour in universities.

Full story here

photo-1544719576-0b52abab3d037. Bookwire’s ‘All About Audio’ Conference Wednesday: Hearing the Potential

On June 24, Bookwire held an ‘All About Audio’ Conference, where data pointed out the pandemic has led to an increase in subscription services, podcasting is growing faster in non-English speaking markets, and the transition from text to voice in that the audio market will soon outgrow the popularity of e-books.

Full story here

8. The 2020 Charleston Conference is Going Virtual

While the Charleston Conference is going virtual this year, they promise a virtual vendor showcase, several networking opportunities, and a user-friendly interface for conference sessions. They have extended the proposal deadline for the Call for Papers to Friday, July 17.

Full story here

A Critical Hope Is the Foundation to #BuildBackBetter

The guest authors of this post are Julian Dobson and Rowland Atkinson. They are the authors of Urban Crisis, Urban Hope out June 2020.

In the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, the hashtag #BuildBackBetter became a rallying cry on social media for those who saw the need and opportunity to reconstruct our cities.

Demands included closing streets to traffic to reduce pollution and create spaces for play; investing in renewable energy; creating affordable homes and neighbourhoods.

These expressions of hope were also an expression of anger at the swift return of conventional politics and economics – views that stressed growth, capital freedom and mobility.

Across the world, there were calls from political leaders and corporations to re-open the economy as soon as possible, with minimal effort to protect public health. In the UK it was striking that the first sectors to return to work were the housing market and construction and car showrooms. These sectors are central to an economy predicated on property and finance, rather than one that promotes human flourishing.

As this economy slowly restarts, overseen by a political machine that seems to highlight the divisions in society more broadly, it is already concentrating wealth, diminishing capacity to address human need and ratcheting up carbon emissions. This return to a profoundly unequal mode of wealth creation is intertwined with the immediate potential for crisis that may follow a hard Brexit, and the long-term catastrophe of profound climate change.

pexels-photo-2834219But as we say in a new collection of essays on the challenges facing our cities, to talk of hope today is to ask for trouble. By hoping to build back better, we trouble and disturb taken-for-granted ways of doing things. Those with power or interests in maintaining how things were will not relinquish their views and roles. A struggle for new ideas that deliver more to more people is being waged, with our cities at the heart of these debates.

Our collection, titled Urban Crisis, Urban Hope, addresses the manifold crisis of our cities and offers just over 50 practical, implementable policy solutions that could make a real difference now. Written before this crisis, it nevertheless deals with issues that COVID-19 has thrust into the spotlight. Contributors examine hunger, violence, spatial planning and mental health, parks and green spaces, housing and local democracy.

COVID-19 has exposed our cities as places where swathes of the population working in the gig economy can lose their livelihoods at short notice; where even a libertarian government has been compelled to prevent the eviction of private renters (albeit to protect private landlords); where the food banks that have stepped in to plug gaping holes in the welfare safety net are forced to close as older volunteers are quarantined, or are left dependent on the generosity of supermarket bosses.

The sudden cessation of much everyday activity at the beginning of the UK’s lockdown period also exposed the levels of ambient pollution urban dwellers must endure: suddenly, in many areas, the air became more breathable and the natural world could be seen and heard. As with the treatment of the rough sleeping homeless, it proved possible to achieve apparently miraculous changes overnight, only for them to be unwound as quickly.

What this crisis emphasised, like a rapidly withdrawing tide, was the ugly shape of contemporary inequalities. Key dividing lines were revealed: between owners and tenants, salaried and gig workers, young and old, healthy and vulnerable. It revealed the need to rebuild the foundational infrastructure of our cities – housing, education and social care, neighbourhood self-organisation and city economies more balanced around making, green infrastructure and the creation of urban spaces that enable communities to thrive. Policies to generate and sustain social glue and to repair divisions around class, region, city and health, among many others, need continuous investment.

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Urban Crisis, Urban Hope is not only about crisis. Each of our contributors offers realistic, achievable policy proposals, each of which could make a real difference soon and without huge expense. They call on central and local government and public institutions to put their money where their mouth is by backing changes that would help to realise the aspirations governments routinely express – aspirations such as a fair and functioning housing market, less violence on the streets, better mental health, and greater civic participation.

In doing so we throw down a challenge to politicians. We say that the ‘wicked problems’ experienced in our cities, while they may be persistent, can be tackled. There are clear actions and new directions that must be taken. There is no better time to start.

  –
Julian Dobson is a writer and researcher with a focus on creating fair, live-able and environmentally just places.

Rowland Atkinson is an urban sociologist with interests in social inequalities and city life, based at the University of Sheffield.

Urban Crisis, Urban Hope: A Policy Agenda for UK Cities is an urgent, informed, and passionate critique at the crisis that has been allowed to develop in our cities, and a wide-ranging agenda for change to challenge all political and government institutions, out 30 June.

University Press Roundup: #AmplifyBlackVoices, a Pandemic-Ridden Hajj and the Digital Self

Check out our collection of 5 of the most interesting university press blog posts for this month. We aim to keep you informed, engaged, and part of the ongoing scholarly conversations.

1. Black Study in a Time of Trouble: A Reading List

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Black Lives Matter protests have been sweeping the world, bringing global attention to the cries of Black voices. In order to understand and fight injustice, we must educate ourselves and each other. Curated by Professor Joshua M. Meyers, this list of powerful Black writings span time periods and diasporas, illuminating the traditions that exist as a result, but also in spite of, the systems of oppression (New York University Press).

2. Why research needs to be published in new and accessible formats

Oxford University Press celebrates their 25th year of publishing the Very Short Introductions series. In this interview with series editor Latha Menon, Menon discusses the importance of condensing jargon-heavy information to a wide, general audience, navigating topics like evolving research habits, subject selection and the technological trends in publishing.

3. Boredom and the Lockdown

Bored in the house and in the house bored? Being bored implies feeling stuck, but indulging in emotions associated with boredom reveals its deceptiveness. Poet Joseph Brodsky claims that the solution to boredom is to embrace it; facing it squarely means to bring ourselves back to vitality (Cambridge University Press).

4. Pandemics, Hajj, and Politicsphoto-1564769625905-50e93615e769

Normally, two million Muslims make the hajj each year, coming from corners around the world to reach Mecca. This year, it falls in late July. However, the pandemic has disrupted any sense of safety in large gatherings and many people have been calling on Saudi Arabia to suspend the 2020 hajj. It is tricky for governments to ban religious rituals and we see religion intersecting with politics and public health once again (Cornell University Press).

5. Mobile Technology and Defining the Digital Self: Gregory Taylor Guest Blog

As humans become more reliant on technology to communicate and connect with each other, it can feel like smartphones and mobile devices are an extension of who we are. Author Gregory Taylor discusses the ways in which digital connectivity interacts with our sense of selfhood. (McGill-Queen’s University Press)

A Lady’s Transnational Journey Beyond the Veil: Aesthetics of Female Health and Disease, Social Distancing & Transformative Healing

The guest author for this post is Maryam Farahani, She is a Research Associate at the University of Liverpool and co-editor of Psycho-Literary Perspectives in Multimodal Contexts.

During the long nineteenth century, Western Orientalists designed intimate portraits of the East, informed by new aesthetic principles. William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), for instance, painted a striking icon of Oriental romantic interaction, sketching the social distancing norm in A Street Scene in Cairo (1854-61). The Egyptian woman in niqab (the veil) symbolises the erotic-exotic binary in female form. Although the niqab has been shunned in the past decade and lost its aesthetic appeal for our Western imagination, it remains to be a protective attire in social distancing. The historical function of the niqab for women communicates aesthetics of virtue, which Thomas Reid (1710-1796) specified as an aspect of beauty in his theories of taste and perception.

Figure 1. A Street Scene in Cairo; The Lantern-Maker’s Courtship (1854–61)

Figure 1. A Street Scene in Cairo; The Lantern-Maker’s Courtship (1854–61)

When authors of a 2013 MERS study suggested gender difference and infection rate, reiterating that Saudi women wearing the niqab might have better protection, the proposition was immediately challenged by Western thinkers. Today, Muslim women are not receiving the usual hostility while the public are advised to wear face-masks as a means of “protection” and “prevention of transmission” during the Coronavirus pandemic. I wonder whether excessive cautionary strategies can become a double-edged sword in the long run. Could we be reminiscing our historical fear of the unknown and over-indulgence in debating gender differences? Could extreme ideas of social distancing entwined with economic distancing increase global paranoia? I argue that behavioural paradigms, the battle of the sexes, and biases engrained in societies are among credible historical reasons to concern us regarding generational patterns of paranoia.

Review, for instance, western colonial-era intellectuals demonstrating women as objects of eroticism: ripe and plump concubines, sensual women in Turkish baths, reclining healthy slaves in Ottoman Harems, and stylishly-dressed girls in lavish Persian anderoonies. These images inspired fear and attraction, encouraging exploration and exploitation beyond the veil, insofar as some artists even endeavored to cherish such fantasy worlds. Epistolary narratives testify to certain madness in Western obsession with erotic-exotic binaries or as Holman Hunt put it, “Oriental Mania”.

Figure 2. L'Odalisque à l'esclave, 1839 by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Figure 2. L’Odalisque à l’esclave, 1839 by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

The European quest for feminine health and beauty transported Western men across the continent on to the Middle East. But there was another reason, beyond trade, art, sensual women, and geopolitics, that directed them eastwards.

Escaping diseases and epidemics prompted health tourism and, for some, even permanent settlement in the East. Theories of disease transmission, such as in the case of syphilis, were known by Columbian and pre-Columbian hypotheses, yet never recorded as an Oriental infection. In my reading, so much as I hoped to understand whether Westerners were concerned at all about transmitting diseases to the local communities overseas, I have not so far reached cumulative evidence.

It is documented that the British upper classes, who could afford travelling to health-resorts abroad, made health tourism a fashionable practice. One of my favourite writers, Lady Lucie Duff Gordon (1821-1869), left England, for South Africa and Upper Egypt in the 1860s. Unlike her male counterparts, she was not journeying for fictive adventures or political power. Lucie was fond of translation but did not dare entering masculine literary circles by penning poetry or fiction. Perhaps she was aware that other literary women such as Felicia Hemans (1793-1835) struggled.

Figure 3. Lucie, Lady Duff Gordon by George Frederic Watts, 1848

Figure 3. Lucie, Lady Duff Gordon by George Frederic Watts, 1848

Lucie travelled to Egypt, learned Arabic, and settled for the rest of her life, in the hope of real healing. She was afflicted with tuberculosis in England and grief-stricken after losing her 6-month-old son. Her desire to travel was fortified by her fondness for observational learning and the new British tourism in Egypt; she reflected on her friends’ experiences, such as William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863) and Bartholomew Elliot Warburton (1810–1852). Upon returning from the East, they discussed positive and soulful transformations as a matter of social distancing from Western intellectual circles. Warburton even published his first book, the Crescent and the Cross (1844), inspired by his Middle Eastern journeys.

By the mid-1850s, tuberculosis had become a deadly epidemic, taking lives all over Europe, including some of my favourite English poets, John Keats (1795-1821), Emily Brontë (1818-1848), and Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861). In the 1800s, up to 25% of deaths in Europe were attributed to TB. In 1830-1833 and 1836-1837 respectively, influenza epidemics broke out in England and, from 1826 to 1837, London saw the worst of a second cholera wave. Social and economic distancing strategies did not save British upper classes from disease and death. The first posters about prevention of TB transmission appeared in the US almost a century later, but earlier artistic efforts culminated in typical eroticized portraiture of female organs. La Miseria by Cristóbal Rojas (1857-1890) was painted in 1886 when the artist himself was battling TB. The disease is eroticized in a non-Oriental, pensive anesthetisation of naked female anatomy.

Figure 4. La Miseria by Cristóbal Rojas (1886)

Figure 4. La Miseria by Cristóbal Rojas (1886)

Figure 5. Tuberculosis Don't kiss me! Your kiss of affection, the germ of infection (1936-1941), NY: Library of Congress.

Figure 5. Tuberculosis Don’t kiss me! Your kiss of affection, the germ of infection (1936-1941), NY: Library of Congress.

Such emaciated images of diseased women were a far cry from the Western desired models of exotic beauty. I, therefore, contend that the conception of “consumptive chic”, proposed by some of our contemporary Western feminist scholars, is not accurately identical with health and aesthetic standards seen through the nineteenth-century masculine gaze. For these men, curvaceousness was an agreeable norm of health throughout the seventeenth to the middle of the nineteenth century. This was, of course, not a Rubenesque type of female nude, but neither was it corroborating the pale and thin female consumptive model which appeared in the latter part of the nineteenth century. That is why I do not endorse the “aestheticization of tuberculosis” as an accurate judgement of health in literary and visual arts of the period. Moreover, for many women writers of the time, such as Lucie and her historian daughter, Janet Ross (1842-1927), livelihood and physical strength, as well as well-built constitutions identified with aesthetics of health rather than pensive moods and consumptive bodies.

“Change in climate” was Lucie’s prescription by London specialists such as Dr Quail and Dr Izod. In Egypt, her Luxor letters were enthralled by realistic Oriental images of private and public spheres. Despite her humorous tone, Lucie had formed her own biases and tenacities, frequent in colonial travel writing of the time. In Luxor, she became not only a convalescing patient, but also a Hakima (female doctor). During one Ramadan, an epidemic broke out with symptoms of gastric fever. She refused to heed warning and aided the poor with her medicine box with supplies and a “lavement machine” to give effective enemas. Her efforts proved nothing short of a miracle and she saved anyone she could treat early on. Although it seemed that in her Oriental journey, escaping Western influenza and TB epidemics, Lucie had faced another epidemic in the East, she made the most of life. Providing medical help to the community gave her a new purpose in the spring of 1864 which she followed until her death. According to Katherine Frank (1994), Lucie’s biographer, it was in Egypt that she found new peace, new friendships, new social distancing benefits from spurious London aspirations, and new wholeness. She was called Noor ala Noor by Egyptians, meaning a light brighter than her original name, Lucie. Through epidemics, grief, illness, pain, loss, and sorrow, Lucie found new light. Perhaps we too may find a transformative healing, if not a temporary escapade from our Western freedoms to our private lockdowns. As Katherine Frank put it:

“But human beings, like all things, shed chrysalises, moult, slough off old skins, metamorphose, discard, and assume names, rise from heaps of old ashes…

 

Maryam Farahani is a Research Associate at the University of Liverpool and co-editor of Psycho-Literary Perspectives in Multimodal Contexts.  She is an accredited education management practitioner, mentor, and coach, reading narratology, history of medicine, and philosophy of mind. Her forthcoming monograph (in 2 vols) entitled British Women’s Poetry & the Psychology of Aesthetics explores nineteenth-century women’s verse narratives in the cognitive field.